In the early 2000s, Kota Jahangir village in Maharashtra’s Jalna district was experiencing a severe water deficit. The women and the children had to walk several kilometres each day, to fetch potable water for daily use in the region. Due to the general high concentration of fluorides in the groundwater, it was also unfit for human consumption.
In order to address the water scarcity in the village, the gram panchayat established a village water committee called Paani Samiti in 2006. The committee of 21 members had 33 per cent of representation from women. The Samiti began raising difficulties such as obtaining tankers to deliver water during dry spells and the time women spend fetching water.
A community pond was recognised as a central source of water. Water is first treated using the reverse osmosis technique and then is pumped and distributed through pipelines to 95 per cent of the village households. For this, the household owners and farmers pay a nominal fee of Rs. 500 annually.
The committee meets once a month to keep an eye on the water supply and address public complaints. The frequency has been lowered to twice a year because of the pandemic. The committee is also responsible for water distribution systems, water quality monitoring, water structure sustainability, agriculture, and distribution channel operation and maintenance.
Making the Groundwater Safe and Sustainable
Despite the fact that the area receives 600-800 mm of yearly rainfall, the complex hydrogeology of the area causes water run-off. The area’s groundwater recharge is problematic due to the area’s dominant black cotton soil.
With an aim to make the groundwater safer to use, the village has collaborated with Watershed Organisation Trust. The trust has helped the village in constructing many water harvesting structures using government schemes. Groundwater recharge has been made sustainable thanks to strategic planning and the design of water-harvesting infrastructure. From 18.5 m in the early 2000s, the groundwater table has risen to 12-15 m.
The Gram Panchayat is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the piped water system. The technological concerns are resolved by the block officers working together.
One of the important tasks that the committee has undertaken is that of educating the villagers about the water problem in the region. This has caused the residents of the region to grow more concerned about their water usage and wastage. Almost 90 per cent of the households now manage their wastewater either through soak pits or kitchen gardening.
The committee also helps the residents in managing the greywater. Previously, effluent from kitchens and bathrooms was discharged into open stormwater drains. The effluent from the storm drains used to poison the water in the pond. This resulted in the development of mosquitos and insects, as well as the spread of diseases such as diarrhoea. Now, on the other hand, the households securely manage and reuse greywater from the bathroom and kitchen through the building of soak pits and kitchen gardens to grow fruits and vegetables. The locally grown produce is consumed by the households and the excess is either exchanged with other households or sold in the local market.